Ethelyn's Mistake (Chapter 2, page 2 of 4)

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Chapter 2

Mrs. Dr. Van Buren was tired, and hot, and dusty, and as she was always
a little cross when in this condition, she merely kissed Ethelyn once,
and shaking hands with Aunt Barbara, went directly to the north chamber,
asking that a cup of tea might be made for her dinner instead of the
coffee whose fragrant odor met her olfactories as she stepped into the
house. First, however, she introduced Nettie, who after glancing at
Ethelyn, turned her eyes wonderingly upon Frank, thinking his greeting
of his cousin rather more demonstrative than was exactly becoming even
if they were cousins, and had been, as Mrs. Dr. Van Buren affirmed, just
like brother and sister. That was no reason why Frank should have wound
his arm around her waist, and kept it there, while he kissed her twice,
and brought such a bright color to her cheeks. Miss Nettie cared just
enough for Frank Van Buren to be jealous of him. She wanted all his
attentions herself, and so the little blonde was in something of a pet
as she followed on into the house, and twisted her hat strings into a
hard knot, which Frank had to disentangle for her, just as he had to
kiss away the wrinkle which had gathered on her forehead. She was a
beautiful little creature, scarcely larger than a child of twelve, with
a pleading, helpless look in her large, blue eyes which seemed to be
saying: "Look at me; speak to me, won't you?--notice me a little."

She was just the one to be made a tool of; and Ethelyn readily saw that
she had been as clay in Mrs. Van Buren's skillful hands.

"Pretty, very pretty, but decidedly a nonentity and a baby," was
Ethelyn's mental comment, and she felt something like contempt for
Frank, who, after loving and leaning on her, could so easily turn to
weak little Nettie Hudson.

At the sight of Frank and the sound of his voice, she had felt all the
olden feeling rushing back to her heart; but when, after Nettie had
followed Mrs. Van Buren to her chamber, and she stood for a moment alone
with him, he felt constrained to say something, and stammered out, "It's
deuced mean, Ethie, to serve you so, and mother ought to be indicted. I
hope you don't care much," all her pride and womanliness was roused and
she answered promptly: "Of course, I don't care; do you think I would
wish to marry Judge Markham if I were not all over that childish affair?
You have not seen him yet. He is a splendid man."

Ethelyn felt better after paying this tribute to Richard Markham, and
she liked him better, too, now that she had spoken for him, but Frank's
reply, "Yes, mother told me so, but said there was a good deal of your
Westernism about him yet," jarred on her feelings as she plucked the
roses growing at the end of the piazza and crushed them, thorns and all,
in her hands, feeling the smart less than the dull, heavy throbbing at
her heart. Frank did not seem to her just as he used to be; he was the
same polished dandy as of old, and just as careful to perform every
little act of gallantry, but the something lacking which she had always
felt to a certain extent was more perceptible now, and to herself she
accused him of having degenerated since he had passed from her
influence. She never dreamed of charging it to her interviews with Judge
Markham, whose topics of conversation were so widely different from
Frank's. She was not generous enough to concede anything in his favor,
though she felt glad that Frank was not quite the same he had been--it
would make the evening bridal before her easier to bear; and Ethelyn's
eyes were brighter and her smiles more frequent as she sat down to
dinner and answered Mrs. Van Buren's question: "Where is the Judge that
he does not dine with us?"

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